Two weeks from now, when Callum Pilgrim hits the field for the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship with her Fraser Valley Fusion 97A squad, it will mark her third straight year participating in the prestigious tournament.
But without a doubt, this year’s edition is the most pressure-laden.
Pilgrim, like the vast majority of her teammates, just put the finishing touches on her Grade 11 school year and is heading into Grade 12 in the fall. That means this summer is pivotal in terms of auditioning for post-secondary scholarships. And the Canadian Open, a massive event running July 11-21 in Surrey, is a magnet for university coaches and scouts.
“It would be cool to see some scouts there,” centre fielder Pilgrim said, reflecting on the scholarship scrutiny. “But hopefully it doesn’t make us nervous, and we won’t do anything we wouldn’t normally do on the field.”
The Fusion are a regional rep club, and Pilgrim is one of two Abbotsford players on the 97A squad – shortstop Mikaila Kerr is the other. Head coach Gord O’Grady speaks highly of both in terms of both their talent and their coachability.
O’Grady has been with this group of Fusion players for the past six years, and though they had a fair amount of roster turnover heading into this season, they’ve heated up of late, reeling off a recent seven-game winning streak in league play.
“I’m a fair-weather guy, and we don’t go in a lot of early-season tournaments because the weather is so up and down in April,” he said with a chuckle. “But as we’re coming towards the Canadian Open and provincials, it’s the right time to be peaking.”
“Early in the season we were just trying to get chemistry going,” Pilgrim echoed. “But lately we’ve been really gelling, hitting well, and it’s good to see that coming together going into provincials and the Canadian Open. Hopefully we’ll do really well.”
The Fusion 97A are playing in the Future Gold U19 division at the Canadian Open, which features the New Zealand youth team along with squads from across Canada and seven U.S. states.
Two other Fusion regional teams are also participating in the Canadian Open – the 98 and 99 squads are in the Showcase Gold 16-and-under division.
The Canadian Open brings together more than 1,300 athletes in multiple age classes, with over 350 games hosted at three locations in Surrey – Softball City, Cloverdale Athletic Park and Sunnyside Park. The women’s international division features national teams from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and 2012 world champion Japan. For more information, visit canadianopenfastpitch.com.